It was after work one late afternoon. The weather was marvellous. I was cycling to swim in the outdoor pool in Lörick. Since I lived in Oberkassel, my route took me along a scenic pathway that provided a view of the river Rhine. Am Pappelwäldchen offered a bike path along one side of tall, majestic old trees and a path for pedestrians on the other.
The long line of pretty poplars stretched far into the distance. They presented a canopy of rich and dense dark green leaves. I was thankful for the magnificent shade they provided against the bright afternoon sun.
This area of Düsseldorf has long been a wonderful place for recreation. The swimming pool gave me a marvellous respite from my busy days. I was cheerfully riding my bike, passing others from time to time.
I became aware of two cyclists heading towards me. Presumably, I subconsciously expected them to line up one behind the other. Suddenly I became aware this was not the case and an impact was imminent.
The path was the width of only two bikes and I was on one of them. The eyes of one cyclist widened at the impending danger, the other remained completely oblivious.
I could not avoid him due to a massive tree trunk next to me. I grasped my handle bars, braked hard, he thumped into me shoulder to shoulder. I turned my head and looked over to the body on the ground. He had flown from his bike and hit the tarmac like a sack of potatoes. He was motionless.
I descended my bike and leaned it against a tree. Crouching over the man, I could see he was breathing but he appeared to be unconscious. It transpired that the other cyclist was not his friend but a stranger who was being overtaken. A few other people stopped but seemed helpless.
A Brush With The Law
It was before mobile phones were widespread, so I suggested I bike to the pool to call for an ambulance. I rebutted a couple of protests that I may not return and raced off. The pool attendants were sympathetic and phoned the authorities. I explained the location of the accident as best I could.
Trying to judge where emergency services could drive onto the path, I was able to intercept the ambulance. After a few minutes, the police arrived. They questioned what had happened. I explained. One man that I had overtaken previously blurted that I was travelling extremely fast and recklessly. I protested.
Thankfully, two women who I had also calmly overtaken interceded. They claimed that was just not true. “He passed us cautiously and warned the other cyclist.” she said. “Really?” I thought. One policeman enquired further. “I distinctly heard him shout Pass auf! very loudly” It took a while but then I realised that I had rather embarrassingly issued an English expletive. I was young and under duress. Sincere apologies
An Enlightening Escape
The paramedics headed to the hospital and I was saved by a simple linguistic misinterpretation. The police were satisfied that it was an accident. Personal details were exchanged, people drifted off and I went for my swim. That evening the phone rang.
The caller was the son of the injured cyclist. He said his father had been drinking and asked if I would be making any claims for damages. My shoulder was painful but it was nothing serious. I said no, asked how father was and where he was hospitalised. The next day I visited him.
He was bruised yet cheerful. His pride was worse off than his body. He was very apologetic. I mentioned that I only wished to make sure he was okay. His son entered and became nervous. During our conversation it transpired that he was a lawyer, hence his interest in any litigation. And his dad was a former policeman!
No legal conflict followed the incident. A liability insurance policy did, however.
By Vincent Green, Jul 18, 2013
Hopping on a bike, taking a ride and discovering the region can be very enjoyable and most rewarding. Plenty of cycle paths can be found along the banks of the Erft, Ruhr and Rhine rivers. Many smaller rivers and the canals also offer wonderful trips.
Germans, on the whole, love and respect pets and are friendly towards dogs. Dogs are permitted on public transport and inside restaurants but keeping a pet on a leash is a must. Dog ownership is highly regulated and taxed through a compulsory licence fee.